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England and Wales

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Map of England and Wales, two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom

England and Wales (Welsh: Cymru a Lloegr) is one of the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It covers the constituent countries England and Wales and was formed by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. The substantive law of the jurisdiction is English law.

The devolved Senedd (Welsh Parliament; Welsh: Senedd Cymru) – previously named the National Assembly for Wales – was created in 1999 under the Government of Wales Act 1998 and provides a degree of self-government in Wales. The powers of the legislature were expanded by the Government of Wales Act 2006, which allows it to pass its own laws, and the Act also formally separated the Welsh Government from the Senedd. There is no equivalent body for England, which is directly governed by the parliament and government of the United Kingdom.

History of jurisdiction

The Roman province of Britannia in 410

During the Roman occupation of Britain, the area of present-day England and Wales was administered as a single unit, except for the land to the north of Hadrian's Wall – though the Roman-occupied area varied in extent, and for a time extended to the Antonine/Severan Wall. At that time, most of the native inhabitants of Roman Britain spoke Brythonic languages, and were all regarded as Britons, divided into numerous tribes. After the conquest, the Romans administered this region as a single unit, the province of Britain.

Long after the departure of the Romans, the Britons in what became Wales developed their own system of law, first codified by Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good; reigned 942–950) when he was king of most of present-day Wales; in England Anglo-Saxon law was initially codified by Alfred the Great in his Legal Code, c. 893. However, after the Norman invasion of Wales in the 11th century, English law came to apply in the parts of Wales conquered by the Normans (the Welsh Marches). In 1283, the English, led by Edward I, with the biggest army brought together in England since the 11th century, conquered the remainder of Wales, then organised as the Principality of Wales. This was then united with the English crown by the Statute of Rhuddlan of 1284. This aimed to replace Welsh criminal law with English law.

Welsh law continued to be used for civil cases until the annexation of Wales to England in the 16th century by the Welsh House of Tudor. The Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542 then consolidated the administration of all the Welsh territories and incorporated them fully into the legal system of the Kingdom of England.[1] This was in part to update outdated Welsh laws, but also to control Wales alongside England; through these acts, the Welsh could be seen as equals to the English,[2] which was reflected on both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I's coat of arms where the dragon represented Wales and the lion represented England,[3][full citation needed] but as soon as the Tudor dynasty ended with the death of Elizabeth I, the red dragon of Wales was dropped and replaced with the unicorn of Scotland with the succession of King James I who demoted Wales' status on the coat of arms and on the first adaptation of the Flag of Great Britain.[4]

Prior to 1746, it was not clear whether a reference to "England" in legislation included Wales, and so in 1746, Parliament passed the Wales and Berwick Act 1746. This specified that in all prior and future laws, references to "England" would by default include Wales (and Berwick-upon-Tweed). The Wales and Berwick Act was repealed by the Welsh Language Act 1967, although the statutory definition of "England" created by that Act still applies for laws passed before 1967. In new legislation since then, what was referred to as "England" is now "England and Wales", while subsequent references to "England" and "Wales" refer to those political divisions.

Wales jurisdiction


There have been multiple calls from both Welsh academics and politicians for a Wales criminal justice system.[5][6][7]


The Royal Courts of Justice of England and Wales

England and Wales are treated as a single unit for some purposes, because the two form the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England. The continuance of Scots law was guaranteed under the 1706 Treaty of Union that led to the Acts of Union 1707, and as a consequence English law—and after 1801, Irish law—continued to be separate. Following the two Acts of Union, Parliament can restrict the effect of its laws to part of the realm, and generally the effect of laws, where restricted, was originally applied to one or more of the former kingdoms.[clarification needed] Thus, most laws applicable to England also applied to Wales. However, Parliament now passes laws applicable to Wales and not to England (and vice versa), a practice which was rare before the middle of the 20th century. Examples are the Welsh Language Acts 1967 and 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998. Measures and Acts of the Senedd apply in Wales, but not in England.

Following the Government of Wales Act, effective since May 2007, the Senedd can legislate on matters devolved to it. Following a referendum on 3 March 2011, the Senedd gained direct law-making powers, without the need to consult Westminster. This was the first time in almost 500 years that Wales had its own powers to legislate. Each piece of Welsh legislation is known as an Act of Senedd Cymru.

Company registration


For a company to be incorporated in the United Kingdom, its application for registration with Companies House must state "whether the company's registered office is to be situated in England and Wales (or in Wales), in Scotland or in Northern Ireland",[8] which will determine the law applicable to that business entity. A registered office must be specified as "in Wales" if the company wishes to use a name ending cyfyngedig or cyf, rather than Limited or Ltd. or to avail itself of certain other privileges relating to the official use of the Welsh language.

Other bodies


Outside the legal system, the position is mixed. Some organisations combine as "England and Wales", others are separate.

Order of precedence


The order of precedence in England and Wales is distinct from those of Northern Ireland and Scotland, and from Commonwealth realms.

National parks


The national parks of England and Wales have a distinctive legislative framework and history.

See also



  1. ^ Cannon, John (2009). A Dictionary of British History. Oxford University Press. p. 661. ISBN 978-0-19-955037-1. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  2. ^ Owen, Gwilym, et al. "The Acts of Union 1536–43—Not Quite the End of the Road for Welsh Law?" Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, vol. 37, Department of Celtic Languages & Literatures, Harvard University, 2017, pp. 217–250, JSTOR 45048897.
  3. ^ Fox-Davies (1909), A complete guide to heraldry
  4. ^ Duffy, Jonathan (10 April 2006). "Union recognition". BBC News. Archived from the original on 30 November 2020. See also Graphic (archive of Graphic)
  5. ^ "Written Statement: Update on the development of the justice system and the legal sector in Wales (30 September 2021)". GOV.WALES. 30 September 2021. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  6. ^ "Plaid Cymru call for devolution of justice to Wales - 'we can't be treated as an appendage to England'". Nation.Cymru. 29 November 2022. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  7. ^ "Devolution a 'necessary step' towards a better Welsh criminal justice system, academics argue". Cardiff University. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  8. ^ Subsection 9(2) of the Companies Act 2006

Further reading

  • Jones, Robert (2022). The Welsh Criminal Justice System. University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-1-78683-945-9.